An easy and good rule of thumb would be to check whether or not the compound noun is towards, one word, or hyphenated is to look it up in the dictionary. I do suggest to use a proper dictionary and not some urban online dictionary, although the online Oxford or Cambridge dictionary are very good.
Anyway, if it’s not in there treat it as two words. Simple and can’t really go wrong, but you’d like to know the rules for proper hyphenation, right? Okay, here we go then.
Is there a hyphen between compound verbs?
Those can be hyphenated or appear as one word. If you do not find the verb in the dictionary, hyphenate it. 🙂
What about adjectives?
When they come before a noun and act as a single description they’re actually a compound adjective and should be hyphenated. Treat them as one word, but we need the hyphen to separate the two words while showing we actually want the reader to see they belong together.
Take this example:
The funny-smelling socks of that funny, big man made me gag.
Funny-smelling is a compound adjective in front of a noun, while funny big is just two adjectives.
Don’t mistake adverbs with adjectives. Remember an adjective is a word that describes a noun or pronoun, while an adverb is a modifier for an adjective, verb, and even other adverbs, and will answer the questions how, when, or where. Plus it often can have -ly attached to it.
The slowly walking man went to the baker.
(Slowly is an adverb describing walking, not an adjective.)
How did the man walk? Right! Slowly, and there is your adverb.
But when adverbs not ending in -ly are used as compound words in front of a noun you have to hyphenate. While when the combination of words is used after the noun we do not hyphenate. Well, that should be enough to confuse you. 🙂 But it’s not, is it?
Look at this example and I’m sure you know what I mean.
The well-known author hoped to finally win that award.
Known is a descriptive word well is an adverb describing known. They combine to form one idea in front of the noun ‘author’.
But! Yes, a but, because when the compound description follows the noun it describes, so no hyphen is used.
The author who wished to win the award was well known.
A long-anticipated decision was finally made.
The decision they made was long anticipated.
He got a much-needed haircut yesterday.
His haircut was much needed.
And where there’s one, there’s another exception.
When you could have used and between two adjectives you have to use a comma, not a hyphen, between the two.
The author has a long, secret manuscript.
If you want to know more about hyphens hop on over to my site where soon there will be more on the subject.